Automotive Lighting Jihlava, the Czech automotive lighting systems manufacturer and subsidiary of Magneti Marelli, is investing Koruna 2.6bn (US$127.6m) into expanding and upgrading its operations in response to growing demand.
Of the total investment, Koruna 300m (US$14.7m) has been invested into a new 5,200sq m hall to boost capacity. The new gall will commence operations in October.
This year the company expects to manufacture 5.1m lighting units, 11 % more than the 4.6m units produced last year. According to general director Petr Novotny, the company recently won three major new orders, for OEMs Renault, Hyundai and Skoda. “These are important orders for us but I cannot reveal details of the size or value of the orders as talks are still continuing,” Novotny told
Automotive Lighting Jihlava already counts DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, BMW, Porsche, Honda, Volkswagen, Audi, Ford and Alfa Romeo among its customers. As well as cars it also manufactures lights for trucks, buses and motorcycles.
The new contract to supply integrated lighting systems for Skoda’s new Yeti SUV is a key milestone in the company’s development. “Not only is it our first order for Skoda but for the first time the design and research and development has been done here in Jihlava and not at the group level,” stated financial director Lubos Lazna.
The Koruna 2.6bn investment is being made into technology, equipment and software, as well as expanding manufacturing space. By 2010 the plant’s capacity should reach 6.5m units per year and it should become the largest and most modern operation within the Magneti Marelli group, said Novotny.
The new orders are expected to create around 500 new jobs at Automotive Lighting Jihlava. However, Novotny said the company, which currently employs 1,800 people, is struggling to find enough workers. “We are currently short of around 200 workers. We are planning roadshows with banners in other areas of the country to attract workers but if that fails we may have to look for staff abroad,” Novotny said.
Most of the shortage concerns machinery and assembly workers, but the company is also short of around 50 engineers. The company will spend Koruna 1.5m (US$73.6m) on the roadshow campaign to attract workers by the end of this year. Lazna said the company was having to pay higher wages to attract and retain staff. “We are having to increase our spending on wages. Therefore, in future we will increasingly focus on high quality products,” he said. Lazna attributed the difficulties in recruiting enough workers to the low unemployment rate, particularly in the southern region of the country where the company is based.
Automotive Lighting Jihlava is part of parent company Automotive Lighting, which is part of the Magneti Marelli group. Half of the Czech company’s 90 suppliers are located in the Czech Republic.